A friend of mine sent me an Internet born placard via message the other day. “What a F&%#$ing Year This Week Has Been.”
Pretty much sums it up. We will remember last week, the way we remember 9/11. And there’s more to come. An inauguration. Which will happen and will also be remembered. Perhaps, after the 20th, we can exhale, just a little.
I only covered one inauguration. It was exciting, regardless of political views. President Reagan was a gentleman and represented a far more genteel era of American politics than is currently extant. I remember being on the stand with other photogs. Momentous, and tension producing. You had to be selective in your approach, while he took the oath. Single shot your motor drive, always cognizant of the fact you had 36 exposures to play with, not over a thousand.
His opponent, President Carter, is also a gentleman. Here, he is pictured at the 1980 Democratic National Convention.
I never did much in the way of political coverage, or news coverage in general. Simple fact is, I’m just not very good at it. But the photographers who do it well are a national treasure. We will remember last week, and the upcoming inauguration, because of the pictures. I’m not slighting the pundits and the reporters. Their words and thoughts are eloquent, voluminous and descriptive. But the first thing that will bubble up in our collective consciousness, years from now, from the insurrection attempt last week, will be the photos. Last week, pictures, and the people who made them, once again took center stage and showed us what happened, without flinching. Those searing, irrefutable images prompted our shared horror, astonishment, shame, and now, in the aftermath, provide evidence.
Photographers such as Win McNamee, Ashley Gilbertson, Erin Schaff, Saul Loeb, and Maranie Rae, among many others, stayed the course, and kept their eyes in the camera throughout the mayhem, despite being attacked and harassed. So sad that so many in this country have succumbed to the lie that journalists are a dangerous enemy. A free, raucous, vibrant press, however imperfect, is essential to democracy. I’ve worked in many countries governed by a dictator. The first thing they stifle is the flow of information. Their greatest tool? State run TV and radio.
There’s an anniversary right after this upcoming Inauguration, of another momentous occasion, 40 years ago. The Iranian hostages came home. They were flown into Stewart Air National Guard Base, bused to West Point, and feted in a ticker-tape parade on Broadway. I remember the joy of that time. I remember it better because I made pictures of it.
A return to freedom. In pictures. Pictures show us ourselves. They make us think. They prompt outrage, questions, and action. They heal, and they break our hearts. They make us lift our faces in pride, or hang our heads in confused shame. They make us remember.
Tip of the hat and heartfelt thanks to the photojournalists who stuck with it, and kept working.